The UK still has a long way to go to reduce the gender pay gap, according to a new report.
PwC's Women in Work Index puts the UK in 18th position out of 27 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in terms of narrowing the gender wage gap and increasing female labour participation.
The index relies on five key indicators of female empowerment: the gender wage gap, female labour force participation rate, the gap between female and male labour force participation rates, female unemployment rate, and the proportion of female employees who are in full-time employment.
Efforts to reduce the gender pay gap and increase female workforce participation mean the UK's absolute performance in 2012 moved ahead one place on 2011.
Other OECD countries have made progress, however, which accounts for the UK's poor performance. In 2000, the UK was fourteenth in the rankings.
PwC's index is dominated by the Nordic countries, with Norway at the top, followed by Denmark and Sweden.
Ireland and the Netherlands have made particularly good progress in the latest rankings, each moving up by five places. This is largely a result of narrower gender wage gaps.
While the UK performs above the OECD average on female participation in the labour force and female unemployment levels, its performance was hampered by the low proportion of women in full-time employment – it is 25th out of 27 countries on this measure.
Despite the UK's success in narrowing the gender pay gap – it fell to 18 per cent from 26 per cent in 2012 – it remains above the OECD average of 16 per cent.
Gaenor Bagley, head of people and executive board member at PwC, said: "The low level of females in full-time employment is holding back both the UK's economic recovery and women's career progression.
"Despite the perception that flexible working helps women, our index and wider research suggests that it could instead be holding them back in many cases."
Ms Bagley attributed the Nordic countries' success to the fact that all individuals are considered to have the right to an improved work-life balance and the "cultural challenge" needs to be solved in the UK to enable women to realise their potential.